Professor Marjolein Visser is a nutritionist and epidemiologist and professor of Healthy Ageing with specific attention to nutrition and clinical dietetics at the Department of Health Sciences of the VU University in Amsterdam, as well as the Department of Internal Medicine, VU Medical Center. Her research interests are nutritional and other lifestyle determinants of healthy ageing. Important research areas are malnutrition, obesity, sarcopenia and depression. She is involved in (inter)national ageing studies and lifestyle intervention studies and is a member of the Health Council of the Netherlands.

Professor Visser is the coordinator of three large EU consortia: MooDFOOD, focusing on the role of nutrition in the prevention of depression, PROMISS, focusing on the prevention of malnutrition in older adults, and the JPI MaNuEL, a HDHL Knowledge Hub focusing on malnutrition in older adults. She has authored over 230 scientific publications (H-index 70) and serves on the editorial boards of several international scientific journals.

She has been invited to present MooDFOOD in August 2017 in Washington DC at International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research

Professor Visser, congratulations on your upcoming plenary session at the first major international meeting of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, outside of Washington, DC, this August. ISNPR is a relatively new organisation in this emerging field, is that right?

During recent years, there has been increasing attention to investigating the link between nutrition and mental diseases. Our MooDFOOD project, which started about 3 years ago, is a unique contributor to this new research field. The recent establishment of a society focusing specifically on the relationship between nutrition and psychiatric disorder will help to give this research field the attention it deserves. Furthermore, it will enable researchers to meet at its first meeting and share their research findings and ideas. I am looking forward to this meeting and would like to stimulate those working in this field and those who are interested in the role of nutrition in psychiatric diseases to attend.

This seems like a uniquely multi-disciplinary conference. Please tell us what you have planned for the session, particularly around recent developments in the MooDFOOD project:

During my lecture I will first introduce the MooDFOOD project to the audience. We are really proud of this important project and its team, and the results of this project will certainly contribute to the field. Of course I will also present some results of the project. These will be the results of our observational research as the intervention studies conducted within the MooDFOOD project are still running and results cannot be expected until 2018. I will present the results of a unique harmonized meta-analysis that we are conducting in collaboration with 6 cohort studies and which is coordinated by dr. Mary Nicolaou. In each of these cohorts, a local investigator has investigated the association between three dietary indices and depression using a standardized protocol. We used the MDS (Mediterranean Diet Score), AHEI-2010 (Alternative Healthy Eating Index) and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) indices, which all differ slightly in the healthy and unhealthy food products and nutrients they include in their score. These scores generally indicate how ‘healthy’ the diet of a person is. In a next step, the results of these local analyses are combined in a meta-analysis. This will give us important evidence on whether dietary patterns are linked to depression, whether this is consistent across cohorts (that differ in age, country and other characteristics), and which of these dietary patterns is most strongly associated with depression.

Has the MooDFOOD team presented at other interesting conferences recently?

On May 18th, 2017, the MooDFOOD team organized a symposium during ECO2017, the 24th European Congress on Obesity, held in Porto, Portugal. Since obesity is linked to both diet and depression, and thus is an important factor in all the research that we perform within the MooDFOOD project, we feel that our project is very relevant for the obesity research community. Laura Winkens presented the Mindful Eating Behaviour Scale that she developed within the MooDFOOD project and showed its association with the body mass index. Nadine Paans talked about weight gain in depressed persons and which biopsychosocial variables contribute to this weight gain. Deborah Gibson-Smith presented her work on the association between obesity and depressive symptoms and whether this association differs between different ethnic groups. And finally, Anika Knüppel talked about the bidirectional association of body weight and waist circumference with change in common mental disorder. The symposium was very well attended and even attracted some media attention.